‘Big announcement’ coming from Shire

Tia Lynn Ivey News

Significant tax revenues may start flowing into Morgan County as soon as 2019 due to Shire, a $1.2 billion biopharmaceutical plant in Stanton Springs, which has just been “informally approved” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to mass produce its signature pharmaceuticals products.

According to Morgan County Commissioner Andy Ainslie, who also sits on the Joint Development Authority (JDA) for Stanton Springs, Shire has finally been approved by the FDA for commercial production, which will result in the company doubling its workforce and beginning tax payments in 2019.

“They will be making a big announcement soon,” said Ainslie at the last work Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) session in February. “This means we can expect to see tax money from them in January of 2019.”

The JDA is a four-county board tasked with the development of Stanton Springs, which was conceptually designed to be an industrial complex in order to attract medical and technology companies.

“This is a 20-year-old vision that is finally coming to fruition,” said Ainslie. Ainslie noted that Shire is expected to hold a special ceremony sometime in March to make the official announcement about FDA approval.

According to Ainslie, the approval secures between 700-800 more employees for the biopharmaceutical plant. The plant currently employs over 700 people.

“The deal was written where we would not start getting tax revenues until either the FDA approved their product or not until 2022, whichever came first,” explained Ainslie. “Luckily, FDA approval came first, moving up the date for us to receive tax revenues.”

Morgan County has a 15 percent share in the tax revenue generated through Shire, which has previously been estimated to amount to $8 million over the course of 10 years.

In 2016, the JDA announced three changes Shire made that would nearly double anticipated tax revenues.

“One, Shire’s additional investment of $85 million in the facility. Two, Shire’s payment of $2.5 million to the JDA to pay down its GEFA loan debt. And three, Shire reallocated the projected value of real property and machinery and equipment,” explained Andrea Gray, lawyer for the JDA. “The original (2012) projections placed a higher value on machinery and equipment than real property.  Machinery and equipment depreciate which reduces taxes over time.  Now that Shire is able to assess its actual expenditures on the facility, it shifted the values to place a much higher value on real property, which does not depreciate. Ultimately the value of all property will be determined by the Walton County Tax Assessor’s office (Shire is in Walton County).”

Once the tax revenue is divvied up between the four counties (Newton, Walton, Jasper and Morgan), each county will distribute that money to the appropriate local governments.

“The current projections show that over the 10-year tax abatement period, Morgan County’s 15 percent share of net tax revenues totals approximately $8 million of which $3.4 million goes to the County and $4.6 million goes to the School District based on the current millage rates (the 2.5 percent commission to Walton County will come out of these revenues),” explained Gray.   

Commissioner Ainslie is proud that the investment in Stanton Springs will start yielding a return soon.

“After 20 years in the making, it’s starting to pay off dividends and that was the whole idea,” said Ainslie. “We wanted to bring good jobs and more tax revenue to our community. It is all coming fruition.”

But Ainslie isn’t just looking back to how the endeavor began, but looking toward the future for what Stanton Springs will become.

“I’m thinking about what this will all look like in another 20 years,” said Ainslie. “We already have the Morning Hornet deal taking off and I believe we will see even more industries flocking to Stanton Springs in coming years.”

Ainslie noted that the JDA will close the land sale to Morning Hornet, which has been widely reported to be a code name for Facebook, on March 1.

“After the closing, our Governor and the company will hold a press conference to announce the company’s true identity,” teased Ainslie.

“Good things are in store for Stanton Springs.”

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